Lunch or dinner bell on the porch rings, a cowboy classic forged two foot triangle. Everyone breaks; rehearsal, music, carp & props shop, wardrobe, LX, office, guests. Line up, wash your hands, grab a plate/bowl/mug. Camp cook style circle the island, serve yourself. The vegan option tucked off to the side at the end of the line or else everyone else will help themselves to it before the vegan gets there. That is to say, I am pretty consistently the only vegan on the farm. Sometimes there’s a handful of vegetarians; who say they also eat eggs or they eat fish and my inside voice goes ‘wtf?’ but I barely voice my opinion on it.
The theatre company I’ve worked for, for a long time is an isolated 80 acre farm way up a mountain outside a small community. Some people live locally and commute but the majority of us travel from all over the country for a one to two month contract in the summer, winter; sometimes spring/fall. There was once a time I was here more than I was at home. Part of the contact is a provision for housing (a cabin or tent spot on the farm) and meals. The two cooks prepare lunch and dinner, do their best to accommodate everyone’s dietary needs.
Lucky for me they’re two very close friends of mine. Cooking vegan comes second nature to Kate who spent time in the late 90’s working with Food Not Bombs Montreal. Jason enjoys the challenge flavoring tofu, bbqing portobellos and mastering the vegan pancake which he never seemed satisfied with until I told him about aquafaba; this past summer he proclaimed bean juice made his best vegan pancakes. I agree. I’m also gluten free. I’m not hard to please but not easy to feed.
Left to my own devises I’m the laziest cook – over night oats, chopped raw veggies and cold tofu splashed with apple cider vinegar and Braggs. I don’t think I’ve ever made dressing – shaking a jar? Too much work! I spend more time on pour over coffee than I do dinner. I have tons of cook books. I love following vegan food blogs, reading and sharing recipes, talking about food with other vegans. I use to cook a lot and I dig a project, especially baking but increasingly these days I only have time for quick simple fuel. These two, however, are pros. They think about flavors and meal planning all day long. They’re meticulous and fussy and critical of their own work. They’re artists the way they work in the kitchen.
After all these years this is the only meal I have ever managed to photograph. I took it to send to Darby to say ‘Damn, you’d like this!’ I always mean to keep a log of their meals but I’ll have eaten half of it by the time I remember. This is sweet chili tofu & mushrooms with roasted cauliflower, green onions and kale salad buried beneath. It’s one of the best bowls I’ve eaten in the mudroom. Every Sunday is taco night and I constantly tell Jason if he did it every night I’d be happy. I skip the taco and just fill a bowl with his cumin spiced beans, roasted lime sweet potato cubes, fresh salsa & guacamole and Kate’s pickled red onions. It’s so good. It’s my absolutely favorite kind of meal.
Buddy checking out the gluten free vegan strawberry coconut cake Jason is eating, that he made for my birthday. Me: looking like I haven’t showered or slept in a few days. Accurate.
The mudroom is off the kitchen. Most of the company eats in the main room or outside on picnic tables. Over the years I’ve grown tired of sitting with everyone else eating animals and commenting on how much they enjoy being carnivores. I don’t believe they’re intentionally pointing it out to me, though some have made a joke about what I’m ‘missing’ and again I don’t voice my opinion. If they want it, I’ll oblige but I’ve fallen into the trap of saying what I really think and casting a gloom over the gathering. I choose the path of gentle guidance. With the internet and growing awareness of animal cruelty people can find any number of resource if they’re curious and I’m more than happy to suggest documentaries, websites or books. In fact I might get a little over enthusiastic when asked. I just try my best to lead by example and show that vegans thrive. In the mudroom, I sit with a small crew of my favorite people. They respect my veganism, even though none of them, the cooks included, choose this lifestyle they’ll often will say the vegan option I’m eating is better than the non vegan option.
Plus, dogs were banned from the main room during meal times (wtf?) but we mischief-makers in the mudroom said: Fuck that rule, dogs are welcome!